Chargers vs. Chiefs: How the teams match up heading into Mexico City game

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon carries the ball against the Raiders.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon has four touchdowns on the season heading into Monday’s game against the Chiefs.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

How the Chargers (4-6) and Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) match up heading into their Monday night game in Mexico City:

When Chargers have the ball

There might not be an offense in the NFL more eager to return to the field for Week 11 than the one directed by Philip Rivers. In their most recent performance, the Chargers bumbled through one of the least productive last-minute series in league history. And that’s not hyperbole. It’s difficult to be less productive than gaining zero yards in eight plays, each one a Rivers incompletion. One of those misfires was nullified by an Oakland penalty, but the offense still netted nothing on its own. Kansas City offers an opportunity to rebound. The Chiefs are widely considered an AFC favorite — if their offense can play well enough to make up for their defense. Per game, Kansas City ranked 20th in points allowed (23.9) and tied for 22nd in yards allowed (369.5) entering Sunday night. Denver scored only six on the Chiefs in Week 7, but three of their past five opponents have reached at least 30 points. Scoring oddly has been a seasonlong issue for the Chargers. They have not scored as many as four touchdowns in one game since the season opener, and that happened only because the game went into overtime. Kansas City scored four touchdowns in one quarter against the Raiders in Week 2.

The Chargers arrive in Mexico City, ready for Monday night’s game against the Chiefs, in need of a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive.

When Chiefs have the ball

Compared with the Chargers, Kansas City features an offense that is nuclear. Six Chiefs have had at least one reception that has gone for 42 yards or more. Only two Chargers can make that claim. The Chiefs also have had running plays that have netted 91, 41, 39, 31, 25 and 25 yards. The Chargers have produced exactly one rush that has gone for more than 25 yards. In two games against the Chargers in 2018, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was 39 of 61 for 499 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. The Chargers sacked him three times. For one of those games, however, defensive end Joey Bosa was not present because of injury. Mahomes has been sacked only 10 times this season in eight games. Led by Bosa, the Chargers have 10 sacks over their past three contests. Kansas City features two of the NFL’s fastest players in wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. Over the last couple of seasons, the Chargers have had issues with the open-field angles taken by some of their defensive backs, particularly their free safeties. Rayshawn Jenkins’ ability to limit the damage if Hill or Hardman gets loose could be vital.


When they kick

Last season, Hill returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown against the Chargers. The good news is he has returned only one punt all season, with Hardman being used in that role lately. The Chargers’ Ty Long is fourth in the NFL with an average of 47.7 yards per punt, and tied for 12th in net average at 41.9. Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker is 23 for 27 on field-goal attempts, though he saw a final-play 52-yarder to tie the game get blocked last week against Tennessee.

Jeff Miller’s prediction

The Chiefs have scored 16 offensive touchdowns on plays that have covered at least 20 yards. (And their defense has a 100-yard fumble return for a score.) The Chargers’ offense has produced only three touchdowns that have come from 20 or more yards away. The differences in the explosiveness of these two teams is about as stark as comparing Mahomes’ mobility with that of Rivers. Too many big plays in Mexico City’s thin air.